Talent does not equal experience

One consistent theme in my career wherever I have been is what an early mentor of mine used to (tongue in cheek) call the “Bo Derek syndrome”. I know I am dating myself with that reference, so for all you younger generation folks it is a reference to the movie “10”. In short, the lead character is obsessed with Bo Derek, whom he dubs a “10” and pursues her throughout the movie. When he finally gets to go out with her, he realizes that she was not really a “10” after all, and that his real love was there all along right in front of him. This scenario has played out in the selection process over and over, regardless of industry, company size or geography. Companies are constantly looking based on “must have” requirements – thinking short term need but ignoring the bigger picture. The typical scenarios, for your reading pleasure:


Scenario A :Hiring Manager creates a job description. In the job description, he/she lists a series of requirements that the prospective candidate “must have” in order to be successful in the position. The recruiter meets with the hiring manager and sets off in a search to find someone with all of these requirements. Time goes by and no candidates or minimal candidates are found with all of said requirements. The ones who have been found are either out of comp range, not cultural fits or have many other options available to them. Hiring Manager and Recruiter pass on several candidates in this time with several but not all of requirements based on initial job description and perceived “needs” of the role, passing on perhaps great culture fits and growth talent purely based on a list of “needs”. Several months go by – still not filled. Hiring Manager and Recruiter start to do math of cost and impact of not having this role filled and come to the painful realization that if they had hired someone who had most of the skills they could have hired someone by now and have had them trained up on the pieces of the “requirements” that they supposedly lacked. Even worse – the position, having been opened for so long, now has candidates also wondering why it has been open so long and thinking twice before applying. D’oh.


Scenario B: Hiring manager and Recruiter get lucky with the “must have” requirements and hire someone in short order. Chances are these skills they “must have” are also highly coveted by other organizations and the market in general. Candidate comes on board for significant increase an performs said position as it is “required”. Candidate performs well but continues to get calls from other organizations as he/she is that purple unicorn. Candidate stays for short tenure to take his/her talents to South Beach (or insert company here). Congratulations – you have hired for short term need but ignored the candidates who would have been better long term fits based purely on immediate “requirements”. Back to square one. Double D’oh.


Scenario C: Hiring manager and Recruiter get lucky with the “must have” requirements and hire someone in short order. Candidate does well and performs great and stays long term. Hey – it does happen – just not as often as scenario A and B in my experience. No D’oh.


We all know there is great competition for top talent these days. In some parts of the world, especially in technology, unemployment is at historic lows. Yet companies as a whole continue to operate in this pursuing the “Perfect 10” fashion – making the perceived pool for talent incredibly shallow for them. It seems almost comical when you step back from it for a second. First off – no one is a perfect “10”. Humans are not products and they do not “plug and play”. Yet – over and over and over hiring managers and recruiters set off on this wild goose chase to find that perfect person, often ignoring the more pressing qualifications – like ambition, attitude, motivation, smarts, etc. Thus – they are making the pool of available talent to them very shallow. The companies that hire successfully these days are not bogged down by “must haves”. No – they think longer term. They are looking for people with the foundation and skills required, but who are also growth candidates. Maybe they have 6 out of 10 “must haves” – but are great organizational fits, with tons of ambition and just generally great fits for their respective companies – requirements be damned. These candidates typically are up to speed very quickly if properly assessed and trained, perform just as well (or sometimes better) in time as the “purple unicorns” and generally are not nearly as expensive market wise. Most importantly, doing this type of hiring allows the company to interview and identify talent – not requirements. These are two very different animals. Talent does not equal experience.


Seems like common sense, right? Yet the majority of companies today continue to put their hands in the fire and refuse to acknowledge that it hurts. As some of my readers know, I am a massive Superman nerd. As much as I would love for Superman to exist – he does not. And neither does your perfect “10”. Changing your perspective on “requirements” will make your talent pool much deeper.

Posted on December 17, 2014 in Fun, Recruiting, selection, talent acquisition, unemployment

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Responses (2)

  1. realist
    November 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm ·

    There is no talent shortage. With 100-200 qualified applicants per job posting, this is a ridiculous notion.

    Stop the six-second scan of resumes and rejecting people for stupid reasons and you’ll find all the talent you want.

    • Ednathans
      November 12, 2015 at 6:27 pm ·

      Agree – that is really one of the points I was trying to make 🙂

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